A Book Look everyone can get behind
By Mark Dawes (December 2020)
This isn’t about book scrutiny, which some people don’t like, and which was the subject of the second-ever blog post on this site.
Instead, our Book Look is a new series of comments from members of the Cambridge Maths Hub about books that are relevant to mathematics education.
These won’t be long and won’t be a full book review. Instead we are asking our colleagues to answer two questions:
What have you read recently?
How has it affected your thinking/practice?
We hope this will have a number of benefits:
The writer of the Book Look will therefore reflect on some of the implications of what they have read.
Readers of the Book Look might find the idea useful for their own thinking/practice.
Readers might be encouraged to read the book.
More than one person can comment on the same book, because they might have been affected by different ideas.
Mathematical Tasks The Bridge Between Teaching and Learning by Chris McGrane and Mark McCourt.
Book Look by Chris Clayton (April 2022)
This book focuses on the tasks. The author makes the point that the task is ‘The Bridge Between Teaching and Learning’. The author starts by quoting Fullan (1997), clearly focusing the reader on the task to improve the quality of learning in classrooms.
The point is made that to keep our eye on our learning goal in a classroom we need to deliver understanding through tasks/activities.
The book unpacks tasks in detail reflecting on; procedural fluency, conceptual understanding, and problem solving.
The point is made that pedagogy is important but of equal importance is the task deployed to elicit the understanding.
The book certainly made me think about the task used in the classroom to exploit understanding.
A good read!
The OSCAR coaching Model – Simplifying Workplace Coaching by Gilbert and Whittleworth
Book Look by Katie Crozier (February 2021)
The Oscar Coaching Model is a book that is going to be placed within easy reach on my bookshelf. I know that it will be one that I will want to refer to again and again. It has proved to be very thought-provoking in relation to my Cambridge Maths Hub role of supporting other teachers. The book suggests a way of coaching that is used to empower people. It suggests that with the right questions, you can help people to find their own solutions and develop their own skills. It is more about listening and steering than telling and advising.
The book is short and has large print which makes it an accessible read for busy teachers. It presents the ideas of coaching through a very simple acronym OSCAR. The letters stand for each stage of the coaching process. The books suggests that clear and shared Outcomes are very important. The particular workplace Situation then needs to be considered. Consequences and choices are then presented ready for Action to be taken and Reviewed. The author takes the same coaching model and applies it to different situations, with an engaging anecdote at the end of each chapter.
It has been a resounding success at book club and has prompted some very interesting discussions.
The Trusted Executive by John Blakey
Book Look by Cordelia Myers (January 2021)
It was my good fortune to come across this book accidentally. It was on my son-in-law’s reading list and he mistakenly sent it to our address. A huge gain for me.
It’s about ethical leadership. Its big idea is that authoritarian leadership is outdated. The internet, and particularly social media, means that we are all exposed to scrutiny and if your words don’t match your actions it will soon become public.
Blakey believes leadership built on trust is much more effective. He describes trust as having nine facets under three headings: ability, benevolence and integrity. He explores these in depth and has many helpful illustrations. This is best book on leadership I have read for a long time. It’s not school based but is easily applicable to all teachers (leaders of classes), school leaders and those leading professional development for teachers.
x + y: A mathematician’s manifesto on rethinking gender by Eugenia Cheng
Book Look by Cordelia Myers (December 2020)
This book has thrown me sideways. It has shown me
How frequently I stereotype
How unhelpful – or worse – stereotyping can be
How thinking in terms of “types” affects my practice in the classroom.
In conjunction, it has also challenged my thinking about competition and its consequences. Mathematicians are often highly competitive, but they don’t need to be as Cheng illustrates. In fact, in today’s world where people work much more than ever in teams, it may be unhelpful.
I haven’t yet finished the book but my head is buzzing with the quantity of challenging material. I don’t agree with everything Cheng proposes but she has certainly made me think in a constructive way. I highly recommend it to teachers of maths or science.